Understanding Faith (02)

10 11 2008
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Believe it not, the best place to start in understanding faith, is a “strange phenomenon” (often overlooked) within the word grace (charis). The Greek word charis almost always means the favor of God → people. But sometimes it can mean a person’s reciprocal thanks → God, e.g. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 7:25). “Thanks” here is charis! This means that one word can describe both the original act of generosity (i.e. God’s rescue) and the person’s appropriate response (i.e. thanks). David deSilva puts it this way: “grace can be used to speak of the response to a benefactor and his or her gift.” So charis is a remarkable little word, able to describe the complete exchange process of gift giving A ↔ B. Interestingly the word for “thanks” (eucharistia) had the same two meanings in earlier times! And so (I propose) does the Greek word for faith, i.e. pistis in NT times. “Faith” is also an A ↔ B word, as I will show next time via the example of Romans 3:1-8. But if so, this has powerful implications for how we understand faith, and how an ancient reader could have understood it.

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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